HARARE: A human rig­hts commission appointed by Zimbabwe’s government said on Tuesday that at least eight people were killed, mos­tly by gunfire, in a cra­ckdown on protests last week.

In a blunt statement, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission also accused the security forces of “systematic torture” and slapped the authorities for using troops to curb civilian disturbances. “At least 8 deaths have been reported to the commission and mostly attributed to use of live ammunition,” it said.

Investigations revealed that “armed and uniformed members of the Zimbabwe National Army and the Zimbabwe Republic Police instigated systematic torture”, the statement said. “The torture was organised in that they targeted men who stay near areas where barricades had been placed and near areas that were torched by protestors or looted,” it said.

The report is one of the most outspoken in the eight-year history of the commission, say observers. The constitutionally-mandated panel, first appointed by former autocratic ruler Robert Mugabe during a power-sharing government in 2010, often adopts a lower profile and has lacked funding for its work.

The commission also expressed concern at the continued use of the military to maintain law and order.

Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2019